Scottish First Minister wary of football behind closed doors

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon believes a return of football even behind closed doors risks boosting the spread of coronavirus as fans could congregate to watch games.

Matches across Britain have been suspended indefinitely because of the virus.

Strict measures regarding social distancing and mass gatherings mean it will likely be months before sports venues can reopen to full capacity.

It has been hoped that matches can resume behind closed doors before then to fulfil broadcasting contracts and keep clubs afloat.

But Sturgeon is wary of crowds gathering to watch games together or close to stadiums where matches are being played.

"We have to consider if that completely takes away the risk," said the Scottish National Party leader. "If a match is still on TV, the danger is people will congregate together to watch.

"What I will say is they will be very carefully considered and we'll share as much of that as we can."

Scotland's lower-league seasons have already been brought to an end.

Sturgeon warned that some form of coronavirus restrictions could remain in place until a vaccine is found, words that will be of little comfort to Scottish clubs, who rely on gate receipts for a large proportion of their revenue.

"We want to get a semblance of normality back to people's lives but we can't risk a resurgence of this virus," she said.

"I know that is not good news for people who have sport as a really important part of their lives but it would be wrong for me to give false expectation about an early resumption of large-scale sporting events."

Meanwhile, Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster quit the task force examining the reconstruction of the Scottish leagues just before their first meeting on Monday.

The Scottish Premiership club said Dempster would instead focus on plans to get fans back into stadiums once the pandemic is under control.

"@LeeannDempster will work with other Scottish clubs on the biggest issue facing our game - to identify how and when football supporters can safely return to Scottish grounds. Leeann will take no part in the SPFL's working party on reconstruction," Hibernian said on Twitter.

Dempster's withdrawal left the co-chairs, Hearts owner Ann Budge and Hamilton director Les Gray, as the only top-flight representatives on the now 14-strong panel.

The group was set up by the Scottish Professional Football League in the wake of the decision to terminate the three lower divisions as they stood with a view to doing the same with the Premiership if and when UEFA approves.

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